Time for some words from the past. Whether history rhymes, repeats, or we find patterns regardless, I often share quotes from the past that seem highly relevant to the present. I do this to show that we’ve often been in a situation we think is unique to the present. It is not infrequent that past statements have the potential to reveal deficiencies in modern analysis, framing, and recommendations, but your perceptions may differ.
Below are ten quotes that I previously shared on Twitter and likely elsewhere (email correspondence, articles, presentations, etc.). The quotes are intentionally devoid of attribution below. At my other publishing (and, to be honest, where I primarily publish now) site — https://mountainrunner.substack.com/p/its-been-said — each quote is followed by a poll for the reader to select which of three possible years the statement was made. Those polls are time-limited, so pop over quickly as they will close soon. Feel free to leave comments below with your guesses. We’re on the honor system here, so no cheating by Googling or searching this blog.
It is necessary to remember, in the first place, that this war is not one that is being fought by the military forces alone. There are economic, psychologic, social, political and even literary forces engaged, and it is necessary for us in order to defeat the enemy, to understand fully the strength of each. Nor can the investigation stop with the forces of the enemy: it must extend to each country in the world and to every people. The question of winning the war is far too complicated and far too delicate to be answered by a study of only the powers and resources of the nations in arms.
For many years there has been widespread discussion of the need for reorganizing the Department of State. Students, publicists, members of Congress, and members of the Department itself have repeatedly pointed out that the Department has not been geared up to performing the functions required of the foreign office of a great twentieth-century world power.
The chief criticisms of the Department have been four: (1) that there was lacking a basic pattern of sound administrative organization, (2) that the type of personnel found both at home and abroad was inadequate for the job required in foreign affairs today, (3) that the Department was too far removed from the public and from Congress, and (4) that it was not prepared to provide leadership for, and maintain the necessary relations with, other federal agencies.
Modern international relations lie between peoples, not merely governments. Statements on foreign policy are intelligible abroad in the spirit in which they are intended only when other peoples understand the context of national tradition and character which is essential to the meaning of any statement. This is especially true of a collaborative foreign policy which by nature must be open and popular, understood and accepted at home and abroad. International Information activities are integral to the conduct of foreign policy.
We believe these phrases indicate a basic misconception. for we find that the “psychological” aspect of policy is not separable from policy, but is inherent in every diplomatic, economic or military action. There is a “psychological” implication in every act, but this does not have life apart from the act. Although there may be distinct psychological plans and specific psychological activities directed toward national objectives, there are no “national psychological objectives” separate and distinct from national objectives.
But [the author] documents the difficulties, noting misconceptions rife in government officialdom and among other wielders of power, let alone intellectuals, about the nature and needs of political communication. He notes the absence of doctrine. He traces out disagreements between departments of the government (State and Defense especially) about who should wield this weapon and how, in war or in peace. He calls for concerted action under the wise and dramatic leadership of a President standing above departmental parochialism and conflict, aided by a co-ordinator in the White House. He insists that we must match ideas harmoniously with policies and actions, but claims we have not “found our ideas.”
The United States Information Service is truly the voice of America and the means of clarifying the opinion of the world concerning us. Its objective is fivefold. To be effective it must (1) explain United States motives; (2) bolster morale and extend hope; (3) give a true picture of American life, methods, and ideals; (4) combat misrepresentation and distortion, and (5) be a ready instrument of psychological warfare when required.
I am convinced an information program can contribute to our security just as can an army, a navy, and an air force; and that it can make its contribution in a manner that is vastly preferable to the threat or the use of force, and at infinitely less expense.
I am sure if you get away from telling the truth, then there is no place where you stop.
So long as we remain amateurs in the critical field of political warfare, the billions of dollars we annually spend on defense and foreign aid will provide us with a diminishing measure of protection.
The truth is that a fact — an incontrovertible fact — is often the most powerful propaganda
That’s it for now. Good luck!